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Australia Children from Adelaide's northern suburbs make blankets for pets of domestic violence victims

02:12  12 august  2021
02:12  12 august  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a little boy sitting at a table with a plate of food: Sienna Arnold and Hopeness Uwimana helped make blankets, bandanas and bowls for animals in foster care. (ABC News: Charlotte Batty) © Provided by ABC NEWS Sienna Arnold and Hopeness Uwimana helped make blankets, bandanas and bowls for animals in foster care. (ABC News: Charlotte Batty)

For many people, leaving an abusive relationship can mean losing their pet, but 270 primary school students from Adelaide's northern suburbs are helping change that.

For Hopeness Uwimana, 9, and Sienna Arnold, who will be 10 in five days, helping others was a no-brainer.

"It makes you feel good and special because you're doing it," Sienna said.

"It makes me feel like if you help other people in need, it might come back to you, and we can all live a good life," Hopeness said.

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They are among year 4 and 5 students at Elizabeth Grove and Elizabeth Vale primary schools participating in a Kindness in Action program led by the City of Playford.

Students have made blankets, bandanas and bowls for animals in foster care being looked after by domestic violence charity Safe Pets Safe Families.

The organisation's founder, Jennifer Howard, said their contribution would help dozens of pets stay safe while their owners found their feet.

"Perpetrators of [domestic] violence do use pets as a means of control," she said.

"Especially if someone has left in a rush and the pet is left behind, then the person may threaten to harm their pet if they don't return."

Domestic violence rates across Australia have surged since the pandemic began, and Ms Howard said demand for her services had skyrocketed.

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"Most shelters don't accept pets, so there's a huge need," she said.

As a domestic violence survivor herself, Ms Howard had to abandon her dog when she fled an abusive partner.

Thanks to her charity, 94 per cent of the pets being fostered are reunited with their owners.

"So many people literally say that it saves their lives, because their pet is the one stable support that's there for them no matter what," Ms Howard said.

Kindness leading to opportunities

The Kindness in Action program has been running for four years, and targets schools in Adelaide's most disadvantaged suburbs.

"Children from category one schools that get access to opportunities that are different to ordinary school can sometimes navigate their way to a more positive future than they otherwise would have had," program manager Ali Elder said.

Ms Elder said the program focused on three pillars: volunteering, the arts and sport, and aimed to instil life skills and confidence in pre-teens.

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"That's things like creativity, team-building, teamwork, problem-solving, confidence and social skills," Ms Elder said.

Nargis Karimi, 11, of Elizabeth Vale Primary agreed that the program had expanded her horizons.

"I learned lots of fact about animals, and how to make things I hadn't made before," she said.

"When I grow up, I want to be an architect and an engineer."

Elizabeth Vale Primary school teacher Sandra Tweed said the program had given children the chance to flourish outside of the regular curriculum.

"I've had students from past years tell me about how much they loved the program, and how it's helped them," she said.

"Seeing how much they enjoy it and seeing them develop empathy and kindness with each other has been very rewarding."

The City of Playford has recently partnered with the University of South Australia, which will allow the program to be delivered more broadly in the future.


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